Outfitting the home office.

Author:Jones, Clay
Position:Development of products for the home office - Includes related article - Office Design and Products

Twenty-five million home businesses are expected by 1995.

The past few decades have seen a revolution in business and communications technology that allows workers to perform their jobs wherever they happen to be. Americans now carry out their business in cars, planes, boats and, of course, their homes.

It's a wonder, then, why most workers still feel compelled to go to an office everyday. For those who run a small business, why not stay at home, forget about rush-hour traffic, and forego the expense of renting an office? For those who must go to an office, wouldn't it be nice to finish that extra work at home, instead of staying late?

Thoughts like these have spurred an explosion of products targeted at the home-office consumer. The office equipment and furniture industries are catering to the home-office niche, either by designing new products or redesigning the old to meet new uses.

The home office is built around furniture, and makers of office furniture are now marketing products that can serve the purposes of the office, while fitting in with the decor of the home. Kimball International of Jasper has taken on this challenge with a line called Harmony Woods.

"We did market research and recognized a gap in the products available to home-operated businesses, and people who bring work home from the office," says sales manager Tom Boehm. "Harmony Woods provides a line of furniture that meets the needs of various home-office settings."

Home-office furniture's design is much different from that of regular business furniture. "Our designers and engineers work more with vertical space instead of horizontal," Boehm explains. "We needed a design that would work in a living room, kitchen or basement, and traditional business furniture with oversized desktops wouldn't work."

The relatively new Harmony Woods line--whose desks and major components range in price from $699 to $1,999--would seem to have a bright future. "There are currently 15 million to 16 million income-generating home offices, and by 1995 there are expected to be 25 million," Boehm says. "Because of this growth we will be expanding the line within the next year."

Creative Dimensions, based in Nappanee, also works in this market. It caters to consumers needing custom-designed furniture. "We work through a network of dealers, and build to order," says Glen Woodle of Creative Dimensions. The company works most frequently with the high-end home office consumer who needs furniture to fit an exact space or design constraint. Since it is custom-made, prices can run higher than some other lines, but it's made to order.

The DoMore Corp. of Elkhart recently released its Sprint line of chairs. "We are addressing a specific market niche comprised of the home business and the small business," says David Kebrdle, DoMore's president. A Sprint chair, he says, has all the options of a $600 chair for a quarter or third of the price. The chairs can tilt and swivel, and have adjustable armrests.

To keep the cost reasonable, DoMore uses plastic as the major structural component. "Price is the main channel that we had to work with, but we also focus on speed of delivery, and function," says Kebrdle. The average price for a Sprint chair is $150, which includes a five-year warranty.

Numerous retailers across the Hoosier state sell home-office lines. One such retailer is Business Systems Inc. in South Bend, which offers the Bush line that ranges in price from $39 for a typing stand to $900 for major components. Many wholesale/discount stores have gotten into the home-office furniture business as well. Sam's Club, Office Depot and other wholesale stores offer various lines of...

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